DL Cade, Digital Photography Review:
Ever since Apple unveiled the M1 System on a Chip (SOC)—the CPU/GPU/RAM combo pack that powers the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, and the redesigned 24-inch iMac – the creative world has been buzzing. It’s fast, it’s power efficient, it barely needs to be cooled, and since it was designed by Apple for an Apple operating system, the M1 system is optimized to within an inch of its life.
The problem is that the M1 was never meant to power professional-grade hardware. It’s a preview of coming attractions – an extraordinary appetizer designed to serve the enthusiast and amateur community, while tantalizing pros with a mere taste of what’s possible. Seven months on, the pros are getting impatient.
DPReview just published Apple still hasn’t made a truly “Pro” M1 Mac – so what’s the holdup? Following on the good performance and awesome power efficiency of the Apple M1, there’s a hungry background rumble in Mac-land along the lines of “Since the M1 is an entry-level chip, the next CPU is gonna blow everyone’s mind!” But it’s been eight months since the M1 shipped and we haven’t heard from Apple. I have a good guess what’s going on: It’s proving really hard to make a CPU (or SoC) that’s perceptibly faster than the M1. Here’s why.
Bray’s speculation is well-considered, but perhaps misplaced.
As rumors swirl around a future M1X chip for the MacBook Pro 2021 and a possible M2 chip for the 2022 MacBook Air, Apple sees big things ahead for Apple Silicon, both in terms of achieving new designs and perhaps appealing to the most demanding audience of all — gamers. After all, many of the engineers building Apple’s chips are gamers themselves.
“Of course, you can imagine the pride of some of the GPU folks and imagining, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if it hits a broader set of those really intense gamers,’” said [Apple VP Tim] Milet. “It’s a natural place for us to be looking, to be working closely with our Metal team and our Developer team. We love the challenge.”
The eagerness of seeing how the M1 could possibly be made to look like last year’s technology is understandable. But it has been just one year since Apple announced that it was making this transition, and the first products with the M1 were only announced and shipped in November. Good things take time, I say. A betting person might look at when Apple launched new Mac hardware for the past five years or so, and treat that as guidance for when the announcement will be made for first slate of Apple’s high-end Macs running on its own silicon.
Update: Via Nut Bunnies on Twitter, it is also worth mentioning that there is still an ongoing chip shortage, which not one of these articles does. I still think beginning with consumer Macs and then adding higher-end models later is a perfectly sensible strategy, and there is little indication outside the company that professional models are delayed.